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Transformations of Print into Painting: A Case Study of the Context of Prints in an Illustrated Brigittine Psalter
Hortulus: Volume 10, Number 1, (2013)
A liturgical psalter made around the turn of the 16th century at the Brigittine abbey of Mariënwater, in Rosmalen near ’s-Hertogenbosch in the northern Netherlands (Houghton Library MS Typ 197), contains two miniatures: Saint Anne with the Virgin and Child (Anna Selbdritt) (fig.1) and Man of Sorrows with the Instruments of the Passion (fig.2). Both miniatures are based on prints of the same subjects by Israhel van Meckenem (d.1503). The psalter also includes the text of St. Birgitta’s Sermo Angelicus.
This liturgical psalter raises issues of the production and consumption of religious texts in convents in the northern Netherlands. In particular, it highlights issues of female spirituality and pastoral care of nuns in the Brigittine order; as well as the relationship between print culture and manuscript production. The manuscript is an example of how prints, which are copied to be made widely available, are appropriated as paintings in a manuscript that is made in and for a female audience. The two prints are thus recontextualized when seen within the context of the whole manuscript, and within the context of Brigittine devotion. The two paintings were produced in an order that emphasizes the compassion and sorrow of Mary at the suffering of Christ. In this context, the manuscript portrays ideas of predestination, linking an Old Testament text with New Testament images, and connecting the Word to the flesh and blood of St. Anne and Mary, and prefiguration to the compassion of the Virgin.